Thursday, April 23, 2009

Every American Is Morally Obliged to Own a Gun

I have previously blogged about the Federalist 29 in which Alexander Hamilton discusses the militia. The militia, the body of citizens which could muster to protect the state and to protect the people, was necessary in Hamilton's view not only to protect the nation from external threat but also to protect the people from tyranny. It is evident that he saw widespread ownership of guns as a fundamental safeguard against governmental tyranny. The Second Amendment, part of the Bill of Rights, was adopted to placate not Federalists but anti-Federalists. There was no serious questioning of this view by any American, Federalist or anti-Federalist, during the time of the adoption of the Constitution. The Founders viewed the widespread ownership of guns as an important safeguard against tyranny then. The Second Amendment says that each American is responsible to own a gun. And the protection of freedom from the US government remains as fundamental today as it was in the time of Jefferson, Hamilton and Brutus.

The basis of American society is not the US government nor the Constitution, but freedom. Freedom adheres in the people. The United States can happily exist without the current form of federal government. But it cannot exist without freedom.

The Civil War fulfilled the American belief in freedom by freeing the slaves, but the war was fought not over freedom but over union. Slavery was not the main point for Lincoln and the North, and the freeing of the slaves a military tactic, not a moral statement. While the post-bellum period was unsuccessful in dealing with race, and the problems that resulted from the North's indifference and the South's resistance to equality reverberate today, the North's insistence on union changed the emphasis of American belief from freedom to union. The Republicans did not intend to dismiss laissez-faire, but by insisting on union they opened the door to enhancement of federal power. The federal government would remain limited in their view, but union, hence government, was to take precedence over individual and local choice. This was not new, as Andrew Jackson, the most laissez faire and localist of all presidents, had refused to permit nullification of tariffs by the states. Yet, the Civil War's magnitude and scope asserted centralization and federal power in a way that the founders had not intended. This change in psychology resulted from practical events, but it had philosophical ramifications that few at the time could have anticipated.

The Civil War's thrust toward centralization was re-enforced by the Progressives. This was a philosophical shift that elites advocated. The public was never entirely convinced by Progressivism, but has accepted the transformation of American government that Progressivism initiated. Nevertheless, the fundamental foundation of freedom as the cornerstone of American life and the fundamental principles on which the Constitution was based were never rescinded. The changes that Progressivism and the New Deal wrought were applied piecemeal, and never fully understood. As a result, the question of the state's threat to freedom looms larger now than it has ever before. The central government's arrogation of power appears increasingly inconsistent with the principles on which a legitimate American government based on freedom can be based.

In order to be moral Americans must live up to their responsibilities. Americans have a moral responsibility to protect the public from tyranny. The federal government threatens tyranny. Ownership of a gun, then, is fundamental to each American's responsibility. The Second Amendment says that it is the moral responsibility of Americans to own guns. It is in this light that the Second Amendment needs to be understood:

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

A free state is secure only if it is protected from tyranny and external threat. The public must own guns to protect itself from the tyrannical state as vested today in the federal government.

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